Life Lessons from Photography – #4

A quick thank you to Yvette and Indah for nominating me for the 5-story challenge. Here’s day 4 of my series of 5 photos, 5 stories and 5 personal life lessons from photography.

The photo


If you follow my blog, you may have seen this picture before. It is clicked in Granada in Spain. Seeing these three friends brought a smile to my face (I didn’t know they were friends… but something about their body language just says so.)


The story

Ansel Adams famously remarked – “You don’t take a photograph, you create it”.

I didn’t really get on board with that statement at first. For me, my style was all about capturing scenes, people, moments, as they happened. I wasn’t (nor am I, still) one of those arty photographers playing with advanced gear and photographic techniques. Or those, who have the entire picture visualized in their minds beforehand, set up for the shot and then patiently wait for the “magic” to happen.

However “simple” my approach, though, the more I click, the more I realize the truth in the master photographer’s words.

From the camera settings selected, to the subjects picked, to the angles chosen; there are imprints of the person behind the camera, in each snapshot.

Plus, over time I’ve found that I can generally get better results in my photographic pursuits if I went about with a particular theme, or idea of what I was going to shoot, in mind. And also if I planned and prepared accordingly.

It took learning the hard way, to really appreciate the extent to which the latter was necessary.

Like tugging along my tripod with grand plans to photograph a Tokyo street filled with fairy light draped trees, only to be faced with a dark lane. Because I failed to investigate that the lights went out at midnight, every night.

An important part of the preparation process was also to be prepared for the unexpected. And to adapt based on circumstances.

How I wish I hadn’t spent all my time stubbornly clicking a setting sun obscured behind the observatory in Haleakala, because my research had showed that it was supposed to be the best spot for viewing the sunset (It usually was… but just not in that month when I was visiting). A couple of miles back down the road, and I would have found a much better vantage point.

All the planning and preparation though, are not sufficient safeguards against (to use J.K. Rowling’s words) ‘the caprice of fates’.

There have been several missed/ ruined shots where weather has played spoilsport, or my camera has frozen up at the last minute or an unaware passerby has ended up photobombing my picture.

But then, there have also been those wonderful moments of serendipity, when I was in the right place at the right time and the magic just happened.

Those “lucky shots” will forever be amongst some of my most treasured favourites.

Like the one above.  As I was ambling down the cobble stoned alleyways of Granada’s old town, these three ladies strolled around the corner. The sunlight was falling on them just so…It was as if their friendship and camaraderie was making them sparkle.

Fortunately, I managed to get my camera out and click this just in the nick of time, before they proceeded into the shadows.


The lesson

Hard work, capability, planning and perseverance are all very important ingredients for success. But it would be presumptuous to ignore the critical role played by luck.

Which can come in both forms.

Life throws what it throws at us. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad. And that cannot be controlled. We just have to do the best we can, to adapt to, or ride along the ebbs and flows of fortune.

But to surrender completely to the whims of providence, would be equally fallacious.

At the end of the day, what matters is what we make of the hand we are dealt, through the choices we make and the deeds we do.

And that’s where all the hard work and preparation comes in. For without them, we simply wouldn’t be able to recognize or take advantage of the moments when the magic “just happens”.



P.S. Today’s nomination for the 5-story challenge goes to Deb Fong of Hong Kong Fong. Her photographs are captivating, and her thoughtful posts on Hong Kong and life in general, make for very addictive reading.